How To Handle Google Abusive Experiences Violations
Starting on February 15th, Chrome will institute the removal of all ads from sites that have a “failing” status for more than 30 days in the Ad Experience Report inside of the Google Web Tools portal. Abusive experience violations that fall outside of the guidelines set by the Coalition for Better Ads (which I’ll get into below) will be what Google uses to identify abusive ad experiences. Publishers will need to be proactive in identifying violations and fixing them.
Google will notify publishers that they have abusive ad experiences on their properties, and if these are not corrected, Chrome will begin blocking ALL ADS (not just Google ads) on that website.
Google is actively reviewing sites, and if the status is “Failing”, the Abusive Experience Report inside of Google Search Console will show samples of ad experiences found by Googlebot on your site that are triggering abusive experience violations. Publishers are being given very small windows to fix these violations (30 days); however, Google is providing a review process that will allow publishers to get back on the right side of things relatively quickly if they fail to do so inside the window.
Obviously, none of this is ideal. Below, I’ll discuss how to handle violations, how to prevent disruptions of ads displaying on Chrome browsers, and how we can avoid more of these kinds of regulations in the future.
Important Note: Google recently confirmed that publishers leveraging Ezoic DO NOT have any abusive experience violations on the portion on traffic that they are sending to Ezoic. This does not mean your site won’t have violations if you are not sending 100% of traffic to Ezoic. However, ALL TRAFFIC THAT IS leveraging Ezoic learning is free from any abusive experience violations. Ezoic has eliminated these automatically.
Why is Google blocking “abusive ad experiences”?
While most publishers probably just want to know how to navigate these abusive experience violations, it is important to understand the context of why this is happening. Google wants to protect its ecosystem and that means slowing down the adoption of 3rd-party ad blockers. In fact, it’s not just Google. Most of the major platforms came together on this effort spearheaded by The Coalition for Better Ads.
Unfortunately for publishers, a lot of the research and efforts completed by the coalition relied on survey data and broad efforts to curtail what they believed to be “annoying ads”. In the last few years, publishers have not traditionally done a great job of objectively measuring authentic user experiences. This has led to widespread growth in visitors blocking ads; which negatively impacts the ecosystem for just about everyone.
This has led the coalition to identify a multitude of abusive experiences and ad types that they believe need to be eliminated to curtail this. Google is the first to lead the charge on this by adding site-wide ad blocking standards that are carried out by their Chrome browser.
These sorts of broad ad blocking standards across all web properties, visitors, and circumstances are non-optimal and ultimately bad for publishers. It is not a very data-driven way to actually solve this problem; however, publishers as a whole may be able to prevent these sorts of challenges in the future by objectively measuring how visitors are actually impacted by their ads.
Do I have abusive ad violations on my website?
All publishers should be regularly monitoring their Google Search Console (more on what you can do with Search Console here) and Web Tool’s portals for all potential violations highlighted by Google. Traditionally, anything Google marks inside of these webmaster tools have the ability to negatively impact your property. It is usually best practice to try to fix any issues that pop-up inside these tools (which Google has recently greatly expanded).
Web Tools offers a number of different applications that Google provides to publishers to test and improve their sites. This includes the new Abusive Experiences Report. This is where you can monitor all of your properties to see if they have been reviewed, have violations, and if so, how you can address these abusive ad experiences.
It’s important to recognize that if Google has reviewed your website and found a violation that they may have only found it on one page; however if it is occurring on multiple pages, you will need to fix it on all of them prior to submitting for re-review.
Publishers that fail to address any violation in a complete manner within 30 days of receiving the violation, and submitting their site for re-review inside of Web Tools, will have all ads on their site blocked by Google Chrome. This means that all website visitors that visit your site on a Chrome browser will not receive any ad impressions from any of your providers (not just Google).
This forces all publishers to address these violations. For example, if you’re a publisher with abusive experiences violations, but mostly use Amazon ads or ads from another provider other than Google on your website, your visitors using a Chrome browser still will have ads blocked if you have a violation.
How to fix abusive experience violations and gets ads to show again?
If you’re reading this part, you likely have a little bit of work to do. There are large number of potential violations and some are easier to address than others.
Dealing with ad types that violate the Coalition for Better Ad Standards shouldn’t be that difficult. If you have abusive ad types that have been identified (or you simply know that these exist on your site already) it shouldn’t be that difficult to remove them. Any ad partners and providers should provide some degree of control over how and where certain types of ads display.
The full list of ad types that violate coalition standards are here.
One of the ways that it appears that publishers are already getting themselves into a bit of hot water here is that they are sort of justifying how and why they have certain ad types displayed. This means, publishers may feel that a certain ad type flagged in the Abusive Experiences Report does not violate the ad standards, but Google does. Submitting reviews under the hopes that the “Google will reconsider” has not yielded good results thus far. This is not a smart practice and should be avoided unless you’re willing to risk having all ads blocked by Chrome. However, there are more abusive experiences violations than just ad type violations.
Another abusive experiences violation that I expect to be fairly common is the “Ad Density Higher Than 30%” violation. This means that the ad pixels on your site are higher than 30% compared to the vertical height of the screen. This is a violation only for mobile devices. You can read Google’s exact rule-set for ad density greater than 30% here.
How do you measure ad density?
This will be one of the harder violations to address; however, most publishers have similar ad experiences on most pages. This means that if you can adapt your calculations properly, you can likely implement those same practices across most of your pages.
One way to get an idea of ad density is to load the page in Chrome, and checking the height & width of your different screen sizes by right clicking and selecting “Inspect”. This will allow you to select and calculate the total pixels by device type. Then, sum up the area of your ad units. It will be different for each device type.
The equation would look like this ——>
[sum of ad unit area]/[sum of page area] * 100.
This will help you get some rough calculations of your ad density. Once you understand the issue, solving the problem may be tedious but pretty straightforward. Ensure the ad units on each page do not exceed the 30%. Mix and match ad units to see which ones push certain pages – on certain device types – over the threshold.
Other potential abusive experience violations
Most publishers will be tasked with fixing violations relating to abusive ad types and ad density in excess of 30%; however, abusive experiences have a broader definition from Google. One of which includes a lot of detail about deceptive navigation or redirects. This may not affect a large range of publishers, but is an area Google is aggressively cracking down on.
Google ultimately defines an abusive experience by the following conditions:
- It auto-redirects the page
- It misleads or tricks the user into interacting with it
- It violates coalition ad type standards
You can read the full criteria here.
Submitting abusive experience violations for review by Google
If your site has been reviewed by Google, and there were abusive experiences found in the report, you will need to use the information above to fix all violations before submitting for review. It is very important that you do not submit your site for review prior to ensuring that you have fixed all violations. The review process is fast, but not instant. This means that glossing for the violations could lead to site-wide ad blocking in Chrome for a longer period of time.
All abusive experiences violations must be fixed to avoid sitewide blocking. Even if you fix all but one violation the entire site could still see all ads blocked by Chrome.
Requesting a review after fixes
- In the “Request review” area of Web Tools, describe how you addressed each issue, providing as much detail as possible.
- Then, click I fixed this next to the specific violation. A confirmation dialog box will then open asking you to confirm.
- Mark the I have fixed all the issues checkbox, and click Submit to file your review request.
Google has not publicly shared an exact time frame on how long publishers should expect to wait for the review process; however, there are reports of 2 weeks being the window they aim to complete the reviews in.
Preventing ad blocking long term
Ultimately, this is not a fun process for publishers – or arguably a fair one. The silver lining is that it does hold the potential to reduce the adoption of 3rd party ad blockers; which is good for everyone.
If this is a problem that you’re site is particularly struggling with, I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention that Ezoic – a Certified Google Publishing Partner – recently had Google confirm that our technology automatically eliminates all of these violations for publishers. So, if Ezoic is something you considered before it may be a good excuse to get started.
Heading into the future, it will be more and more important for publishers to understand how visitor behavior is correlated with good and bad experiences. This data offers a lot of value to publishers and can help prevent large-scale challenges like ad blocking as this industry moves forward.